Subsystems – firewalled. Processors – garbage. Logic – a veritable absence of one.
Ryan had never had a panic attack before. It wasn’t so bad, really. His brain was buzzing, his face felt numb, he hadn’t moved at all in a few minutes but it felt like he was floating.
Then that buzzing became louder and louder and he realized it was a voice. The woman – her severely lacking file said her name was Victoria Marlow – was yelling through the speaker box so loud there was feedback.
It jarred him back to reality, time moved from its pleasant standstill to too fast forward. Heartbeat jackhammering through his veins he shifted his brain into high gear damage control.
While Miss Marlow yelled herself hoarse, he did a quick survey of her systems again. The only thing that worked was the main uplink. He’d have to reprogram everything remotely from here. That could take weeks! What was he supposed to do in the mean time? Be her on-call servant?
Ryan stopped typing. The virtual version of him was spinning on one of the screens. It was the first one he’d scanned in and the only one he had access to. After a brief analysis, he shrugged philosophically. No other choice.
He pulled up the graphics program, dressed himself in a suit, tweaked minor details to make it look real and pushed the image across the uplink to the damaged system. He prayed the entire time he watched the status bar. 100%. Thank God.
Ryan turned on his headset. “Uh, okay, sorry for the delay.”
“Apology not accepted,” she growled back.
He didn’t blame her. “I don’t know how this happened but it seems your home was never properly entered into our system. We are working on getting it up and running for you. I will restart your unit from here and when it boots up you should be able to hail your concierge.”
“It better work this time.”
Ryan did a quick patch-up with the video/audio and made sure the security was linked up properly before he started the damn thing.
For five whole minutes while it booted up Ryan saw nothing and heard nothing. Longest five minutes of his life.
A huge weight dropped from his shoulders when he saw the house again. The irate owner was in the living room tapping her foot. He heard her say the call word and initiated the holograph.
Taking a deep breath, he prepared for the longest, most complicated, well-intentioned con play ever devised.
Because until he could fix Miss Marlow’s system, he was on call to do her bidding. They would be getting to know each other really well. She just wouldn’t know about it.
* * *
“Good afternoon. And welcome to your new home.”
Tori stared at the holograph that flickered into being in the middle of the room. They didn’t tell her it would look so real. Except for the beams of light converging on him from every corner of the room , the guy looked … done.
“Hi,” she said lamely. He was even good looking! She’d expected some old British type with a moustache and white gloves. But this guy was her age, tall, with a twinkle in his eye and a hint of a wicked smile tucked into the corner of his mouth. In his suit, with his hair just a little tousled, he looked good enough to eat.
This was weirding her out. “Is the tech guy still there?”
“I have troubleshooting and repair capabilities. Is there something you would like to address?”
Wow, it actually understood. That was unnerving. “Uh… you got a name?”
“A name has not been assigned.”
“Assign one,” she said. She was not about to christen a fully grown stranger, even if he was just a machine. Tori had worked her way up to the luxuries she now enjoyed. Yeah, she had the means to keep this place lavish but inside she was still the girl who had to do it herself because no one else would. Now it hat just changed to no one else could be trusted. And here was this person without a name, who for all intents and purposes would be living with her from now on and taking care of her needs. This would take some serious getting used to.
“Assigning. Ryan. Confirm?”
“Sure, yeah, that works.” He looked like a Ryan.
“Is there anything I can assist you with today?”
“Yeah, lose the suit.” She gasped at how low her voice came out. “It’s weird,” she added hastily.
“Confirmed.” The image flickered and his clothes disappeared, leaving him in nothing but boxers for all of three seconds.
Tori stared. Whew. Hel-lo Ryan. She wouldn’t mind him walking around like that. Well, okay that was a lie. She might be currently on a dry spell in her love life but she refused to become one of those desperate women who needed a hot young bod running around half naked to get a thrill. She had more class than that.
Ryan was dressed again in jeans and a shirt with the sleeves rolled up. “Is this acceptable?” Had his voice changed?
She looked him over with a critical eye. “Could use some accessories but you’ll do.”
A wide leather cuff appeared on his wrist. Okay, that was a little freaky.
She cleared her throat. “So is everything working now?”
“Functionality is at 98%. All essential systems operational. You may experience some lag time while I learn your habits and preferences.”
“Fine, whatever.” Tori couldn’t get over this. Like having a real housekeeper! Except he wouldn’t look at her. The holograph looked real, his mouth moved when he talked, but his eyes were fixed and didn’t follow her. For some reason it bugged the hell out of her. “That’ll be all for now.” She winced at her imperial tone. Had an apology on the tip of her tongue but then remembered he wasn’t really real. She still felt bad.
Ryan nodded. “To call me, just say my name.” And with a teasing smirk, he disappeared.
Virtual Copyright 2011 Alianne Donnelly, all rights reserved, may not be reprinted or reproduced in any manner, written, electronic, or otherwise without express permission from Alianne Donnelly.